Are products that claim to remove tear stains safe to use on cats?

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Tear stains form in the corners of a cat’s eyes when the ducts in the lower lids do not properly drain away the fluid that protects and lubricates the surface of the eye. When the liquid makes contact with the air, it turns a reddish brown, which stains the fur as it drains down the face.

If a cat suddenly begins to exhibit eye stains, your first step is to have him examined by a veterinarian. An infection or allergy may be causing the problem, which will go away when the condition is treated.

In short-faced breeds with slightly protruding eyes, however, this kind of drainage is a chronic problem and eye stains are a constant maintenance issue. Commercial eye stain removers should only be used in consultation with your veterinarian. A cat’s eyes are highly sensitive and can be easily damaged.

These products tend to come in two forms, as pre-moistened pads or towelettes, and as supplements. The towelettes are used to wipe away the stain in a motion moving away and down from the eye. If the stains are severe, more than one pad is generally required. Never scrub the region. Work gently in one direction.

Eye stain supplements contain a form of antibiotic called tylosin. Although this substance is reputed to be safe, there are no long-term studies confirming this fact. If your cat shows any sign of gastrointestinal distress, the product should be immediately discontinued.

In long-haired cats, it’s generally best to seek the services of a professional groomer to keep the fur around the eyes trimmed, which will further minimize the visible effect of the staining.

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